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Senate kills bill that would have taken PERS board from elected to appointed

One of the most controversial bills of this legislative session died on Tuesday after the Senate decided not to move forward with the House’s initial plan for the public employees’ retirement system (PERS).

House Bill 1590 would have restructured the 10-member board in charge of the government pension – which is currently made up  of the State Treasurer, the commissioner of revenue plus eight PERS participant members, both retirees and active employees, elected by PERS members.

Under the new structure proposed in HB 1590, the board would increase to 11 members, with four appointed by the governor, three by the lieutenant governor, one state employee elected by all current state employees, and one retiree elected by all PERS retirees. The commissioner of revenue and state treasurer would remain as board members.

On top of transitioning the board from a mostly elected structure to a mostly appointed body the bill aimed to block the enactment of a 2% increase in the amount governmental bodies contribute to the retirement system, previously authorized by the current PERS board in December 2022. Originally the increase was scheduled to go into effect October 1, 2023. The board delayed it until July 1, 2024. Now that the bill has died, it’s unclear if the board will either rescind or delay the increase. Many local leaders have expressed concerns about how they would cover the additional expense.

Sen. Chris Johnson, a Republican from Hattiesburg in charge of the Senate Government Structure Committee, told his peers that a board overhaul is not the solution to the looming PERS issue. Rather, he believes any issues within the board can be fixed with more sunlight.

“I believe the correct course of action right now is to not bring up House Bill 1590 for a vote,” Johnson said. “I would encourage the board to be transparent. Do live webcasts like we do. Not only for their board meetings but for their working groups, so that everyone can see the dialogue that they have and better understand what goes into their decision

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